February 21, 2011

Who Could Make Up the Class of 2012?

The Mailbag is a SoonerScoop.com feature for our fans to get questions that may require a little more depth and clarity of explanation directly from assistant editor Josh McCuistion. Each week we'll field questions for the mailbag and get you all answers at the week's end!

This week's mailbag has a look at numerous topics such as breaking down whether or not Oklahoma can continue it's big-time run in Kansas in recent years. Also what has been the role of Bruce Kittle so far in recruiting? Finally, the first batch of guesses sure to be wrong at the class of 2012 commitments for the Oklahoma Sooners.

About a year ago I asked you if the ever so wise and extremely handsome SiKS would have reason to say "KS kids rock" in regards to the '11 class. At that time you didn't have Phillips on the radar and said probably not. Do you see any KS kids for the '12 class? And if not now, do you think OU's success the past few years will lead to more KS kids on the Sooner roster?

- Heath

First off, we must be thinking of two very different SiKS.

As far as top players in Kansas I had to bring in some outside expertise to try and get a feel for just what type of talent was there in Kansas next year.

While I should preface this with saying that no one was talking about Jordan Phillips at this point last year, it seems that most don't see this as the type of year that would normally find Oklahoma taking interest. However if there is one name to keep an eye on it's Wichita Collegiate defensive end Trace Clark. He is a big and rangy defensive end who already has a Kansas offer-one of only two players in the state currently claiming offers- that figures to lead to plenty more.

Should the Sooners get involved they'll have a battle on their hands as Clark's father played for Kansas State and his brother is currently at Oregon. Keep an eye on Clark, and perhaps someone else will emerge but right now things seem pretty quiet for Oklahoma in the Sunflower state.

What caused the change of attitude around Norman? 2010 was great in that we got to see all these young kids come in and make instant impacts. They brought a different mentality and a lot of "swag" to the team. Up until that year OU seemed to run business as an NFL team. They were uptight, conservative in their approach, and didn't seem to always have fun.
Is this something the coaches have looked at in recruiting? Are they looking at a different style of athlete? Are they recruiting the same style of athletes and the change is in the coaching staff?
Whatever it is I hope it keeps up. 2010 was a great follow-up to the season long stomach punch of 2009.

- Chris

I've always been adamant that the 2008 national championship game showed that Oklahoma was a step slow to compete with the truly elite SEC teams. Oklahoma had the skill level and schemes that could compete with a couple of really great football minds like Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong but when you saw a player like Percy Harvin you just knew Oklahoma had nothing to compete with that.

Obviously we all look at the goal line plays in that game and though Florida won those battles I don't think the line of scrimmage was Oklahoma's problem, neither team did much on the ground and Oklahoma got pressure on Tim Tebow throughout.

So that lengthy answer that had nothing to do with your question takes me to the reality that I do think as athletes the Sooners have focused even more on speed-people ignore that they were ALWAYS a speed team. I also think that each year they do a little better job of making sure that guys fit in with not only their plan on the field, but what they have as a mindset on and off of it.

I do think the group of current players have shown that they can be run with lighter reins, can still have fun, and will still do what is required on and off the field.

That said, I do agree with you that that some of the swagger of the early years had been lost and you're starting to see some of the confidence and attitude return.

Could you give us info on Coach Kittle related to recruiting? What are recruits saying about him, what geographic area will he be covering, etc?

- Ryan

So far things with Kittle have been a bit quiet and I think that's fairly standard based on a conversation I had with one high school coach from Willie Martinez's old backyard. Through our conversation I got the distinct impression that Martinez was asked to acclimate himself with the areas in which Oklahoma is most familiar and starting to build the relationships in Oklahoma, Texas, and the rest of the Big 12 region.

It seems much of the same is happening with Kittle who is simply focusing on finding some tight ends around the country and as of yet doesn't seem to have a true area in which he is recruiting. However, that will certainly change in the spring evaluation period as Oklahoma gets out on the road. If you made me guess I'd say Kittle is a natural fit to take over much of the Midwest recruiting that Kevin Wilson had been responsible for through the years.

As far as what people have had to say about him, so far it's not been a lot but I can say that Simon Goines was one player that mentioned him in particular sand seemed to like him quite a bit. The thing that I came away with talking to Goines is that Kittle was kind of a 'livewire' so to speak, he kept saying things like 'that guy, you don't know what you're going to get with him. He is kind of a wild card'.

Hey Josh, I have always wanted to know how long you have held on to a recruit's commitment to OU without giving the board any clues? It would seem to be very hard as you watch us board crazies going nuts on if he is going to commit and you already know the answer.

- Kenny

Well it all depends on how you want to verify it, the guy I knew about for the longest but had never actually said it to myself or Oklahoma was easily Ryan Reynolds. He made you all wait for a while but that kid was as locked into Oklahoma as a program and Brent Venables as a coach as any kid I can remember. I didn't know, but I 'knew'.

But as far as a guy who let me know what he was doing, it might just be a tie between Jason Carter in 2002 and Eric Huggins in 2005.

With Carter I kind of found out by accident, I was still in school in Norman at the time and actually ran into Jason following a game while he was running around with his buddy Kejuan Jones. Jason was supposed to be taking an official visit that weekend -though it escapes my memory to where he was supposed to be headed- and I asked him what he was doing in Norman 'come on man, you know', was the smiling response.

With Huggins, his coach was very active and was always great about letting me know what was going on with Eric at all times and I think you all had a great idea of what was playing out with him but I had all but written his commitment story when he called and gave me the quotes following his announcement in May of 2004.

But I can't lie the toughest to sit on was the Reggie Smith. I heard about it just the night before and with the entire world thinking Oklahoma was running third I shared what little I could but hearing about how badly things went for John Blake during his final in-home visit and not being able to truly open up about it was rough.

Will the Sooners take another RB besides Ross? Thanks.

- Matt

It really doesn't look that way right now. Scoop will have more on Donovan Roberts, who seemed like the most likely candidate to join Ross, but right now that doesn't look to be a sailing ship so much as a burnt bridge.

This isn't a purely recruiting question, but it has recruiting implications. In recent years, Oklahoma has had to move kids that had been recruited as tight ends to the offensive line. Chris Chester was the first, I think, and more recently Eric Mensik and Gabe Ikard have made the move. Two questions: (a) is this unique to Oklahoma? Or do other major programs often make offensive linemen out of tight ends? (b) What does this say about our offensive-line recruiting? If we're being forced to do this and other programs are not, doesn't it suggest that we've had some problems evaluating offensive-line recruits?

- Robert

No, you can look at a LOT of programs who have taken former tight ends and turned them into offensive tackles.

Some good examples are Jason Smith at Baylor, Eric Winston at Miami, Matt Branch at LSU, among several others. It should be remembered that guys like Frank Romero and several others were former tight ends who have worked out incredibly well for Oklahoma.

I think part of the attrition and perception of 'misses' along the offensive line is that Oklahoma expects a lot more conditioning out of their big guys up front than a lot of schools. You can look at Oklahoma's linemen and won't find a lot of the sloppy bad weight that you see at a lot of places. At times people worry that it's part of the problem of Oklahoma not being physical enough but it's also part of why Oklahoma's offensive line is one of the few groups that is still pulling and getting out on blocks in the fourth quarter.

If you HAD to make a mock class for OU's 2012 class, who would be in it as of today?

- Joseph

Man, alright, fine…I'll let you back me into this corner.

Obviously Ross and Marrs aside I'm going to peg this class at 17. And yes, I know all about the 12-14 talk but it's worth remembering the class of 2010 was originally slated for about 22 commitments and ended up with 29.

Evan Boehm

Derek David

Ty Darlington

Simon Goines

Victor Irokansi

Gunner Kiel

John Michael McGee

Brian Nance

Dominic Ramacher

Sterling Shepard

Justin Thomas

A defensive tackle we're not talking about yet.

A tight end we're not talking about.

Another corner target.

As always a few guys emerge later than I can know so there will be some names I'm not prepared to know much about.

And yes, I left one guy off, simply because if I put his name on there and I'm wrong (it's way too early to know with him) I'll have my pictures burned in effigy by Sooner fans.

NOTE: Remember you can be in on the mailbag, send in your questions each week to Josh@SoonerScoop.com, title them mailbag and the best of the lot will end up in this feature next week!

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